Food miles and organic food: government says the right thing for the wrong reason
The government has weighed into the argument between the Co-op and the Soil Association. Late last year the Soil Association decided to exclude air freighted food that does not meet its fair trade criteria from its Organic label, and the Co-op thinks this will harm farmers in the developing world. The government agrees with the Co-op and today asked the Soil Association to reconsider.
All these parties are arguing about the relative importance of reducing air freight in order to mitigate climate change and using trade to increase development. This is not the kind of debate that food labellers should be getting into. Labels should focus on giving consumers clear information, such as a carbon footprint, rather than making complex, value driven judgements.
To quote a comment on In Balance when the Soil Association originally made its decision:
While there may be a correlation between preferences for organic food, fair trade (which … is not necessarily synonymous with good development) and low emissions there is very little inherently in common with these three concepts. Consumers should be given the clearest information possible so that they can make their own decisions about how they can wield their purchasing power towards the causes they find the most pressing.